Sunday, October 30, 2011

Warren Ellis & Grant Gastonny's "Supergod" (Steak Knives)

While I've never read a 'bad' Warren Ellis effort, some certainly seem like great ideas that just didn't quite pan out the way they might have.  Supergod is one of those.  Ellis is just an incredible excavator of brand new spaces to think about the place and role of fabular heroes in the popular imaginary.  A second great dimension or angle here is best described in his own, simply put words - "Supergod is the story of what an actual superhuman arms race might be like."  He nails both territories here.  But the story and themes seem hastily told.  He goes from creation to götterdämmerung in 5 short installments.  This might have been a much greater, even classic effort at twice the length.

Our premise: the US, UK, Russia, India, Iran, and China successfully run clandestine super-human creation projects.  All of these take widely different forms.  By way of example, the UK's 'supergod' is a merged and statuesque amalgam of 3 early astronauts and space-shrooms, India's an engineered Shiva-clone.  These programs create super-powered entities well enough, but don't account for their apathy, amoral efficiency or sociopathic predilections.  

India's Shiva clone -
genocidal, amoral, and blue.
This spells bad news for their mortal engineers, of course.  The global show-stopper is triggered by India's Shiva, who undertakes aggressive efficiency in trying to solve the country's problems - from genocidal population control efforts at home (he culls the mass of its population) to sealing up Pakistan as nukes detonate inside, leaving it a desolate, toxic wasteland.  A succession of supergods attack Shiva, breaking the world apart in a fury of spectacular collateral damage.

Gastonny's art complements Ellis' writing well, and there are some truly sprawling and impressive pages in Supergod that bring this clash of super deities to vivid life.  Again, an offering twice this length would have helped - in this case, to allow Gastonny to stretch his legs a little bit more.

While the cover of the collected edition is impressive - its provocative subject matter went a long way to adding initial appeal for me -  I now find it perplexing.  It bears no relationship to the story at all.  Cynically, I have to think that the provocative material is *all* it brings to the table, selling the book by the cover alone.  Still, it pays off the reader with a solid 'steak knives' effort inside, so there's room for forgiveness.

It even throws in a human-fleshy Cthulhu for good measure...

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